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Power to Zuma!

It’s official: President Jacob Zuma is under investigation. Also under investigation are current and former members of his cabinet, as well as his friends and family.

At the heart of this state capture probe is to officially confirm and put a legal stamp on what we already know: Zuma violated the Constitution of the Republic when he placed his interests and those of his family and friends above those of the Republic.

In so doing, he gave direct and tacit approval to all government officials – from ministers, bureaucrats and leaders of state-owned companies, among others – to do everything in their power not to serve South Africans but to do the bidding of the Guptas.

Multi-national companies from around the world were seemingly given the same impression that all that matters in South Africa is to massage the president’s friends and family for doors to open. It had become an “unofficial official” policy at Eskom, Transnet, Denel and others.

Zuma gave away the executive authority of the Republic, which the Constitution vests only in him to use in the interest of the nation. We must not forget that following two elections, in 2009 and 2014, Zuma entered into a contract with the Republic when he undertook, among other things, to “devote myself to the wellbeing of the Republic and all its people”. He also undertook to “promote all that will advance the Republic, and oppose all that may harm it”.

The terms of reference of the commission of inquiry on state capture, framed by former public protector Thuli Madonsela and being executed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, essentially constitute an inquiry on whether the crime of treason was committed.

If an executive of a JSE-listed firm were to face any allegation, even the mildest version of what’s contained in the state capture terms of reference – that he used his position to harm his company – a responsible board of directors would ask the executive concerned to step aside pending an investigation. Similarly, if any government official is under investigation, they are suspended pending the outcome. It’s the right thing to do.

Zuma has suspended many people. Presumably, he knows the significance of suspending a person while they are under investigation. Typically, the reasons are two-fold: to prevent further reputational harm on the institution (be it a company or organ of state) and to ensure the person under investigation does not in any way interfere with the investigation.

But as things stand now, Zuma is the president of the country. Whether we like it or not, he retains the prerogative to appoint and dismiss Cabinet ministers and a number of government functionaries. He approves ministerial travels abroad and signs bills into law. The list of his duties is long.

Technically, the question arises: Why would any government functionary risk their job or some perks by testifying against Zuma, who still wields state power? Some people might argue that, because he is no longer the leader of the ANC he won’t make appointments without the party’s approval. The counter argument is that his relationship with the ANC is not documented in the Constitution of the country.

Regardless of his totally diminished political popularity, he is the president the Republic.

Like private sector executives and state officials who get suspended pending investigation and disciplinary actions against them, Zuma should step aside or Parliament must fire him.

He should have long been fired anyway. The establishment of the commission of inquiry provides the latest justification out of a thousand others that have been ignored for Zuma to go.

He is too conflicted to retain his position as head of state while state officials are preparing themselves to testify against him. There may be Cabinet ministers who might want to spill the beans. But it won’t be possible while he remains in power.

Zuma doesn’t understand conflict of interests and even if he does, he doesn’t care. The question is whether his organisation, the ANC, cares. If it does, it must not dilly-dally and obfuscate issues around managing the transition carefully. It must act in the interest of the people and remove Zuma.

Now that the ANC talks about renewal, one assumes that they will dust off some of their lofty principles. One of those they should look at is their 1996 document entitled State and Social Transformation. It states: “Throughout the years that the ANC led with the slogan – Power to the People! – it waged a determined political and ideological struggle to ensure that, both in theory and in practice, this was not misinterpreted and vulgarised to mean – Power to the ANC!”

In the secret ballot judgment, the Constitutional Court said the slogan “Power to the People!” means all state power and resources are to be used in the interest of the people.

Zuma’s mission while he occupies the presidency is to safeguard his interests. If anything goes wrong now with potential witnesses to the state capture commission of inquiry, the ANC must know that it will be complicit because it failed to get rid of the highly conflicted Zuma.

In fact, keeping Zuma in power now is so reckless it is tantamount to giving Oscar Pistorius an AK47 while he is prison. We know what he is capable of.

Zuma’s AK47, which he uses for private purposes, is the public office he holds. For every minute he remains in office, the ANC is vulgarising its slogan. In short, it is chanting: “Power to Zuma!”

– Mkhabela is with the Department of Political Science at the University of South Africa.Z

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City of Cape Town set to reach out to the bottled water industry

With less than 80 days to go until Day Zero, the City of Cape Town may want to consider getting help from the bottled water industry.

South African National Bottled Water Association (Sanbwa) chairperson John Weaver said that some of their members have donated water to afflicted areas in the past and have sold water at a cost.

“This cost could be dramatically reduced were government to allow for an emergency water category that, for example, allowed bottlers to omit labels.

“Bottled water is regarded as a food product by the Department of Health and must comply with legislation covering, in addition to health and safety issues, packaging and labelling, which is very expensive,” said Weaver.

READ: Police, army will help secure Day Zero water distribution points – Zille

Sanbwa is a representative body of the bottled water industry and has a membership list which includes Bonaqua, Valpré and Clover Waters: Nestle Pure Life.

The bottled water industry has remained untouched during the water crisis as 90% of their members use renewable groundwater sources in their packaged products, according to Weaver.

“Groundwater is strongly buffered against drought influence because it is renewed (replenished) in a completely different way to surface water, which is mainly dependent on reliable rainfall, and is thus very susceptible to drought patterns,” explained Weaver.

The city’s Director of Trade and Investment Lance Greyling said that he was planning to consult with the Sanbwa in the near future. He has already had meetings with retailers in an attempt to dissuade them from profiteering off the drought.

Pricing of bottled water

However, Weaver said that any discussion on the pricing of bottled water with the city would be illegal.

“It is illegal in South Africa to discuss, fix and or manipulate the price of goods. So, even if the city were to approach us or any of our members, we are legally obliged to decline to continue the discussion,” Weaver said in an emailed response.

Weaver also said that, while there was no official report of increased sales in Cape Town, stockpiling was probable.

“There have been reports regarding consignments of 5l bottles, which apparently are sold out within hours of being delivered to Cape stores. We have had no official, nor unofficial reports of increased sales, but whenever there is hot weather or drought, sales do increase,” he said.

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Spotlight on groundwater as Day Zero moves up 9 days

Groundwater has become an increasingly important resource as Cape Town inches closer to Day Zero.

Dam levels have dropped by 1,4% this week, and unfortunately this means that Day Zero has moved closer by nine days, namely 12 April. The City is in the process of implementing “aggressive” pressure management operations and installing water management devices to properties with high water consumption.

SEE: #CapeWaterCrisis: ‘Privileged Capetonian’s guide’ to the water crisis will have you laughing then crying

The plan for Day Zero, when the taps will be switched off and residents will have to queue for water, has still not been released by the City’s Disaster Risk Management team, who have delayed its release by another week.

“If we want this disaster plan to be adopted with as little risk and inconvenience as possible, we need to look at the local context of each water distribution point. We need to build flexibility into the design of this plan to ensure that we can address any contingencies as they arise,” the City says in a statement.

Although desalination and aquifer projects are underway, they won’t produce enough water to avoid Day Zero. Many residents have also turned to boreholes to help alleviate the water crisis, pumping straight from the City’s precious groundwater.

Although a nationalised resource that falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), as well as governed by a municipality’s bylaws, use of groundwater has been left largely unmonitored, until recently.

On 12 January 2018, the DWS introduced a new rule that stipulate that boreholes must be metered and a weekly summary must be sent to the department for monitoring. New boreholes require a permit and you are not allowed to pump more than 400m3 per hectare per year in Cape Town – which is about 1000 litres a day – though this may be reduced the closer we get to Day Zero.

 

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Ramaphosa arrives in Davos on wave of optimism as renewal beckons

Johannesburg – Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa touched down at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Monday afternoon with the wind at his back.

Ramaphosa will lead a boosted high-level government, business and labour delegation at the annual meeting in Switzerland, scheduled from January 23 to 26.

This year’s event is held under the theme ‘Creating a shared future in a fractured world’ and Ramaphosa will promote South Africa’s renewal and fight against corruption.

His visit comes amid reforms Ramaphosa is instituting to strengthen governance and boost investor confidence, especially at the country’s troubled state-owned enterprises. This includes overhauling the Eskom board over the weekend and forcing executives with a cloud over their heads out to pasture.

“This is part of an ongoing broader effort to restore confidence in the economy,” the South African delegation said.

“The South African government will continue to act decisively to address challenges at its key state-owned enterprises to restore public and investor confidence and to ensure that they fulfil their economic and developmental mandates.”

Ramaphosa will join various discussion platforms in Davos to develop a response to new strategies towards transforming governance in various parts of the world, the South African government said in a statement.

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ANC SEES PROGRESS IN FIGHTING CORRUPTION

African National Congress (ANC) president Cyril Ramaphosa says that the party is beginning to see progress in addressing corruption.

Ramaphosa presided over an ANC lekgotla at the weekend.

He adds that he’ll tell the World Economic Forum in Davos this week that South Africa is serious about dealing with the scourge as he tries to woo investors.

The theme for the World Economic Forum in Davos is “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”.

Ramaphosa will join various discussion platforms in Davos with an aim to develop a response to new strategies towards transforming governance in various parts of the world.

“The forum presents South Africa with a platform to showcase its attractiveness as an investment destination and trade partner; set out plans that are unfolding to secure improved and inclusive economic growth, and contribute to efforts to respond to societal challenges globally,” a statement reads.

Ramaphosa will also hold various meetings with high-level political and business leaders from various countries.

The South African delegation, led by Ramaphosa, includes a broad range of leadership from various sectors of the economy and society, with Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba as the lead minister and coordinator.

OUTCOME OF LEKGOTLA

The ANC NEC met on Friday night with a motion on the removal of state President Jacob Zuma reported to be under discussion.

But the party’s Khusela Diko has not confirmed this, saying that the ANC will communicate officially if there has been such a discussion.

With the KwaZulu-Natal and Free State PEC’s disbanded, their temporary steering structures are yet to be announced.

Meanwhile, the outcome of the party’s lekgotla which concluded on Sunday night will be announced at a briefing on Monday.

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Get those buckets ready. Rain is forecast for the Cape!

And now for the good news – rain is forecast this weekend for the drought-ravaged Western Cape.

Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille warned this week that preparations were underway for “Day Zero”‚ when taps run dry in the Mother City.

But for residents facing ever-tightening water restrictions the approaching wet weather spell will be a welcome respite.

The South African Weather Service said on Friday that there was a 60% chance of intermittent rainfall for most parts of the province from Saturday.

“Rainfall is expected for the Western Cape on Saturday‚ clearing up by Wednesday‚” said forecaster Victoria Nurse.

Heavy rainfall was expected between Plettenberg Bay and Cape Agulhas‚ she said.

Weather SA tweeted: “Strong and gusty winds (65-75km/h) are expected in places over the Cape metropole and surrounding coastal areas between Table Bay and Hermanus from this afternoon (Friday)‚ subsiding early Sunday morning.”

Severe thunderstorms were forecast over the south-western parts of KwaZulu-Natal and northern parts of the Eastern Cape from as early as Friday afternoon.

Weather SA tweeted: “Severe thunderstorms over Umzimkhulu and Ntabankulu local municipalities‚ moving south-eastwards towards Mhlontlo LM.”

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Extreme drought grips parts of South Africa

 

South Africa’s Cape Town, one of the world’s iconic tourist destinations, could run out of water by April as the city’s worst drought in a century risks forces residents to join queues for emergency rations.

After three years of unprecedented drought, parts of the city have less than 90 days’ supply of water in their reservoirs.

“Day Zero”, the date taps are due to run dry, has crept forward to April 22 as city authorities race to build desalination plants and drill boreholes.

Almost two million tourists flock to Cape Town every year, with travel and tourism accounting for an estimated 9 percent or 412 billion rand ($33bn) of South Africa’s economic output last year, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

At a trial water collection site, similar to an estimated 200 the city may introduce, people queued to fill up their water bottles, limited to a maximum 25 litres of water per person, a day, officials said.

Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for water, Xanthea Limberg, said the dire situation was being worsened by some people ignoring a push for residents and visitors to use no more than 87 litres of water per person a day.

City officials say dam levels dipped below 30 percent in the first week of the new year, with only about 19.7 percent of that water considered usable. Residents will have to queue for water when dams reach 13.5 percent.

The impact of the drought has been exacerbated by the fact that Cape Town’s population has almost doubled over the past 20 years. Despite that, climatologists describe this as a “once in a millennium” event.

This lack of rain over a three year period would challenge even the best-planned water regulations. It could be a taste of things to come. Climate change researchers predict more frequent dry years and fewer wet years to come.

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Are Afrikans schools to blame?

Paul Colditz

The recent court struggle over Overvaal High School and the EFF’s protest at the school on Wednesday have placed the spotlight squarely on language issues and admission of learners in public schools.

Gauteng politicians and officials were quick to attribute the crisis that inevitably arises each year at the beginning of the year when thousands of learners have not yet been admitted to schools, to the so-called refusal of Afrikaans schools to allow English learners to attend these schools. This reeks of opportunism.

Let’s look at the numbers.

There are 23 719 public schools in South Africa. Of these, only 2 484 schools use Afrikaans as language of instruction, either in single, dual or parallel medium. The single medium Afrikaans schools make up 1 279, or 5% of the total number of schools. If you also count the dual or parallel medium schools, 10% of the total number of schools in the country has Afrikaans as medium of instruction.

The table below shows the complete picture of the number and distribution of schools with Afrikaans as a language of instruction, with the numbers in brackets in column 2 indicating single medium schools. (In the third column, the numbers for 2016 are indicated because the information for 2017 has not been published yet).

1

Over the past 10 years (2006-2016) the number of learners in public schools in Gauteng increased by 348 118. On the assumption that each school should accommodate 1 000 learners, it would imply the construction of approximately 348 new schools.

In reality, the total number of schools in Gauteng in the corresponding 10 years has only increased by 85. This is clear evidence of complete lack of proper planning and poor leadership.

Add to that the fact that certain schools in the province are running empty as parents try to escape the misery of poor education for their children – then it is clear why there is so much pressure on the well-functioning schools.

This has nothing to do with language.

It has everything to do with quality of education and migration of parents and learners away from provinces and areas where the education is not of an acceptable standard to areas, particularly Gauteng and the Western Cape, where they believe their children will have a better education and future. Incidentally, in the Western Cape the increase in learner numbers over the same 10 year period is 113 810, whilst the number of schools has decreased by 2. In a province such as the Eastern Cape it is calculated that there are about 2 000 school too many.

It is also interesting to note the average enrolment of schools in the provinces. The table below is ample illustration of the extent to which individual schools in Gauteng and the Western Cape have to accommodate far more learners than schools in other provinces.

2

The problem with dysfunctional schools and consequently poor education is indeed massive. When almost 80% of grade 4 learners cannot read for meaning, when thousands of children drop out of school every year, or are deprived of proper education because education departments do not appoint temporary teachers to fill vacancies, or appoint principals and teachers, or do not pay subsidies to which schools are entitled because provincial budgets are exhausted, it is not Afrikaans schools or any other schools’ fault.

Functional schools are making every effort to reach out to disadvantaged communities and schools in the midst of their own overcrowded programs. This includes Afrikaans schools. However, there is little that any individual school can do to cope with or solve the massive systemic problems. The cause of these problems must be placed squarely before the door of the state.

We live in a country where language, language rights, identity and culture, race and similar issues inevitably raise emotions and even rage. The placement of 55 learners who prefer English instruction in an Afrikaans single medium school which is already full creates the ideal opportunity to induce chaos and divert the attention from the actual problems facing millions of learners in the country on a daily basis.

Panyaza Lesufi, outspoken MEC for Education in Gauteng, is always very quick to play the race card. Our children must “play, dance and go to school together”, he says. What he doesn’t seem to know is that this has been happening for a long time, also in Afrikaans schools.

There is, to the best of my knowledge, no public school in South Africa that is exclusively white or wants to be such. In fact, the majority of Afrikaans schools in South Africa are not so-called “white” schools.

It is excellent leadership by school governing bodies and principals who lead their communities to accept responsibility for their schools themselves that results in excellence and functionality. Functional schools do so in spite of, and not due to, the presence of the education department.

School communities have the opportunity to choose leaders this year to promote the best interests of their schools and children. The triennial election of governing bodies takes place countrywide in March. It is vital that every parent takes part in this process.

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SA lawyers demand $130m refund from firms

South African prosecutors have called for two consultancy firms to repay $130 million (£94.4 million) they earned from the state power company, Eskom.

McKinsey, and a local firm called Trillian, were paid the sum in 2016 for giving advice. Trillian was controlled by the Gupta family, whose closeness to President Jacob Zuma led to corruption charges. Both the Guptas and Mr Zuma, who has said he will set up an inquiry into the family, deny any wrongdoing. Officials are investigating whether McKinsey allowed money from Eskom to go to Trillian as a way of winning the consultancy contract. McKinsey, which has lost clients over the scandal, said it stopped working with Trillian once it realised its connection to the Guptas. The global firm has also said it is happy to return the money it earned in the deal. McKinsey, which admitted in October it “made several errors of judgement”, also maintains it gave no money to Trillian.

Last month, a South African court gave prosecutors permission to freeze the $130 million (£94.4 million) relating to the Eskom contract. This is the latest in a series of corruption news stories concerning Mr Zuma and the Guptas. The powerful family is accused of “state capture”, chiefly that it used its ties to gain government influence and lucrative state contracts. This is one of the first times the government has taken action against the Gupta family. The broader context here is that President Zuma’s political authority is fading as the governing ANC seems poised to remove him from office, says BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding. The move against McKinsey may well be just the start – as emboldened prosecutors start to target figures who, for years, seemed to many to be untouchable, our correspondent adds.

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Zuma’s fee free plan may cause chaos at SA’s universities

President Jacob Zuma’s move to scrap tuition fees for students from poor South African homes and freeze tariffs for those from working-class households may cause chaos during registration at public universities this month.

Zuma unveiled the plan on December 16, two days before Cyril Ramaphosa replaced him as leader of the ruling African National Congress and two days after a body representing the 26 state-owned institutions said each would raise fees by 8%. The University of South Africa, the country’s biggest with more than 400 000 students, held fees at 2017 rates, it said on December 7.

On January 1, the universities said they won’t allow walk-in applications from people who qualify for free education, but people should instead submit details online for assessment. A day later, the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party condemned the move and called on all academically deserving students to report to universities of their choice for registration.

“Zuma’s announcement on free tertiary education is very much a political project and it puts a lot of pressure on the new ANC National Executive Committee,” Joleen Steyn-Kotze, a senior research specialist at the Human Sciences Research Council, said by phone. “It is possible that there will be chaos and universities are going to be on high alert.”

Earlier protests

Weeks of violent protests at universities across the country in 2015 and 2016 delayed the end of those academic years, and institutions’ finances were stretched by the state’s decision to limit tuition costs in 2016.

Africa’s most-industrialised economy is contending with a skills shortage and a 28% jobless rate. Investors are concerned that the fee proposal, which ignores fiscal targets set in the budget, will add to government debt and hasten another rating downgrade to junk for the country’s local-currency credit.

Under the plan that will be phased over five years starting in 2018, students from homes where the combined annual income is R350 000 ($28 400) or less annually won’t have to pay for tuition, books, meals, accommodation and transport.

The directive also froze fees for students from households earning R600 000 or less per year. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme, which provided assistance to about 226 000 university students whose family income was below R122 000 annually in 2016, will assess applications from prospective students who didn’t previously qualify for financial aid but who now do, Chief Executive Officer Steven Zwane said on Thursday in Pretoria.

NSFAS disbursed R12.4bn in financial aid to almost 482 000 students at universities and technical-vocational colleges in 2016, according to its annual report. Under the new plan, all those who are funding their studies through the organisation will have their loans converted to grants.

Funding allocation

The National Treasury allocated R76.7bn to higher education for the year through March 2018, and estimates this will increase by an average of 8.2% in each of the following three years, the fastest-growing spending item after debt-service costs, it said in the mid-term budget in October.

South Africa will increase subsidies to universities to 1% of gross domestic product from 0.7% now over the next five years, according to Zuma’s December 16 statement. The National Treasury will outline how the government will fund free higher education “in a fiscally sustainable manner” in the February 21 budget, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said after the presidency’s announcement.

“We can easily afford it if we cut out the amount of government money that is currently being wasted on corruption and state capture,” Azar Jammine, the chief economist at Econometrix, said by phone.

“Under the current circumstances there is too much pressure on the fiscus to afford the new measure.”